Monday, June 30, 2014

Crazy About Basketball - Book Review

I'm so excited to start bringing you book reviews!  I LOVE books, especially children and young adult books.  I don't read many adult fiction books.  Most of the "adult" books I read are education professional development books.  I'm super excited about this first book Crazy About Basketball!  It's a poetry book all about basketball.  It's the perfect poetry book to grab some of those readers in your class that are sports fans.  This may sound a little gender bias, I don't mean it to be, but I was surprised that the author is a woman.  That might surprise your students as well and capture some of the girls in your class that enjoy sports.

The book contains 36 poems all about basketball.  My favorite is titled "From the Ball's Point of View" and is very funny.  The poems also tell about the history of basketball, the love of the game, comparisons to other sports, techniques of the game, audience, preparation, and play.

I'm definitely adding this book to my poetry shelf for students and I'll be using some of the poems during my poetry reading and writing unit.  It's a super poetry resource.

And....I discovered the author has several more poetry and picture books!! Click on the covers to be taken to the book's amazon page.

Do you have a favorite sports poem or compilation of poems?

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Note: I was provided an e-book copy of the book in this review by the publisher in exchange for my review.  The opinions expressed in this post are my own.  Links in this post refer to my amazon affiliate and I receive a small compensation for purchases made through these links.  Your purchase helps me keep Dilly Dabbles blog going and supports my classroom. 

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Teach Like a Pirate: What's in it For Me?

This section of Teach Like a Pirate is all about answer the age old student question... "What's in it for me?" Dave Burgess offers 5 hook types to help answer this question for your students.  Here are the five hooks and how I have either used them in my classroom or see myself using them as I plan for next year. 

1 - The student hobby hook: Get students interested by using hobbies and interests that appeal to them and connect with the material being taught. I'd like to get to know my students better in the first couple of weeks of school.  I was crushed last year when it took me until January to know that a student had lost his father the previous spring.  That would have been super important information to know in September! I realize that some students and families aren't going to be super forthcoming about things like this, but I'm thinking that a combination of an interest/get to know you inventory and an individual interview with each student at the beginning of the year will give me a great start.  We do reading benchmark assessments at the beginning of the year and I'm thinking this would be a great opportunity to add a little personal interview conversation with each student.  My assessments will take longer to get through, but I will know my students better.

2 - Real world application hook: Show students directly how knowing this content will be helpful to them in their life. This is a tougher one for me.  Not everything I have to teach students will be helpful to them in their life.  I try to connect it as much as I can, but sometimes I have to look to means of engagement in other hooks.

3 - The life-changing lesson hook: Touch students in a way that changes their lives.  It might change their feelings, perspective or reflection on themselves. This works really well for me in our literature and history lessons, especially when we discuss times of discrimination.  The stories of slavery and genocide and escape and hiding that riddle U.S. history really touch students and give them new perspectives and cause to reflect.

4 - The student-directed hook: Get student buy-in and interest by allowing student choice. I try to give students choice within "have-to's". It might be required that students complete a science project, but what they choose to do is completely up to them.  I give choice constrained choice in reading when students choose their literature circle books from several options.  The leadership team at my school read the book Drive this last year.  Much of the ideas in that book focus on motivation through choice.  I think the thing to remember about choice is that it doesn't mean free for all and choice can be had within parameters.

5 - The opportunistic hook: Use current events, trends, fads, movies or music to grab student attention and connect to relativeness. I LOVED the idea with this hook to post pictures of current events with a corresponding QR code.  When scanned, the code would lead students to more information about the event and/or topic.  Technology combined with what interests students is sure to engage.  I love this idea and plan to use it not only for current events, but the historical events we are learning about as well.  Students will be hooked by the picture, code and information they learn.

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Saturday, June 28, 2014

Saunders School Supplies

Note: This post contains links to products on the website.  I was compensated a sample of each of the products I review in this post.  I receive no other compensation for your clicks on links in this post.  Opinions in this post are my own from my use of the products provided to me. 

I was recently sent some office and school supplies by from the Saunders brand.  I received a SlimMate Storage Clipboard, Recycled Clipboard, Glue Stic, Glue Style Pen and some UHU Tac adhesive putty.   

The Glue N Style Pen is a fun tool.  The design will get you excited to find things to glue.  I really love the glue itself.  It's advertised to not wrinkle the paper, and it really doesn't.  I used it on some pages of my interactive math notebook that I'm mocking up for next year and I love how the glue worked in my notebook.  I'm not super excited about the pen itself.  The hole in the opening is just open, so the slightest squeeze of the pen sends glue out.  I was able to control it ok, but I think students would have a difficult time. Perhaps a rolling ball tip or a rubber tip that opens slightly with a squeeze would be better designs.  I do love the glue though!

Front side of the page my fold-it is glued to and the Glue N Style pen. (Posts about my notebook and fold-its are coming soon.)

Back side of the page where I glued in the fold-it, no wrinkles!

The SlimMate Storage Clipboard is a perfect size at 8.5x12 inches.  I thought that because of it's storage capacity, it might be too bulky to be useful, but that is not the case at all.  It would be perfect for carrying your items for reading conferences or student interviews.  Place a pencil, calculator and any other items in the storage area and clip your note forms to the board.  You'll have everything you need handy, right with you. 

The Recycled Clipboard I received is 6x9 inches, the perfect size for smaller forms and papers.  I plan on using mine to clip on some praise notes.  We use these little quarter page notes to jot down notes of praise to students.  They take the slip to the office and the principal reads the names of "praised students" each Friday on our announcements. It's a sturdy board that will hold up quite well.  It has a much better feel and stability than boards I have used previously that are thinner and less sturdy. 

The thing I love most about the Glue Stic is that it has a screw on lid!  Screw on lids would help lessen glue waste in my classroom.  Snap on lids get lost, put on too loosely and fall off.  That leaves the glue open to dry out and be wasted.  The screw on lid requires that the glue be wound back down in the container so the lid will fit and then screws on for security.  I also like the blue color that dries clear.  This helps students see exactly where their glue has been.  

The Tac adhesive putty comes in three strengths, regular tac, home deco strong tac and ultra strong pro power tac.  Strong hold is stated to hold up to 4.4 pounds and ultra strong hold is stated to hold 6.6 pounds.  I'd use the regular tac for smaller jobs of hanging a picture or paper etc. You might be familiar with that blue colored tacky putty, which I have used before as well.  These are white in color, which I like better than having blue show through everything. Just knead the putty until soft and then use it to attach your item by pressing gently to the surface you want to adhere it to. I used the regular tac to get some papers I needed at hand up off my desk so I could reference them easily and grab them when needed.  I'm an out of sight, out of mind kind of gal.  I think this putty is great.  It seems less sticky than other putty's I've used before and held up my papers great. 

I'm going to make sure I have some tac and glue on hand for back to school in the fall.  I'm going to get some more of the Glue N Style Pen glue for myself to use in my notebook to make sure my items stay glued in.  Thanks to for allowing me the opportunity to try out these products!

How could you use these products in your classroom?

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Friday, June 27, 2014

Small Group Reading: Genre Activities

My friend and colleague introduced me to this concept.  I believe she learned about it in a BER presentation.  I love this idea because I feel like it gives my students exposure to more texts than I would otherwise be able to.  For this activity, I set up 8 Genre stations. With 8 set up at one time, I only have to change the activities once every 8 weeks because students only do one per week.  Sorry, no pictures (I took everything down in my classroom before I thought to take pics.), but I'll be sure to do another post as soon as I get them up for the fall.  I put my activities in tote bags hung on command hooks around the room.  I number each bag.  Some of my teammates have a magazine organizer box on the counter for each activity and number the boxes.  The activities might include: 

  • Read several articles from a magazine (like time for kids or NG kids or Highlights).  Choose one article and summarize it.  Or compare/contrast two articles, etc. 
  • Read a wordless picture book and write a story to go along with it. 
  • Read several poems or jokes.  Choose one to share with the class. 
  • Read the different versions of Cinderella (or any tale) and compare/contrast them
  • Read the book I'll Fix Anthony and then write about the relationship you have with your sibling(s)
  • Read one of the fact books (I include several to give choice) and tell some of the most interesting things you learned about the topic. 
  • Read about one of the 50 states in this state atlas and share what you learned. 
And many more, the possibilities are endless and you can tailor the activities to whatever your students need. I've created several response sheets to accompany texts you likely already have in your classroom.  Just pair the text with the response sheet and you have your genre activities ready to go.  

The set contains 16 response sheets, that's enough for two complete rounds if you choose to do 8 at a time like I do.  I usually can get through 3 rounds, or 24 activities during the year.  That gives you room to add task cards or other activities/ games, etc. that you already have on hand.  You can get the set here. As I add more response sheets, I'll update the set.  Right now, the set is on sale at an introductory price.  To help you get started, I've made one of the activities a freebie, which you can get here.  

In my last post, about structure, I showed you how I keep groups organized and rotate them around the different assignments.  You can read that post here

For the Genre Activity assignment, I place a numbered strip to the left of the group list.  Students are to complete the Genre Activity that corresponds to the number next to their names.  I just change the numbered strip at the beginning of each new rotation, about once a week.  When all students have rotated through all the activities, I switch out the activities and start back with number 1 at the top. 

All of the other four rotations meet with me at some point at my reading table.  However, I don't meet at the table with this last group.  Instead, they share their responses with the class during a 10 minute "Genre Share" at the end of the reading time.  Each student takes a turn presenting.  This is the way I "meet" with them and it holds them accountable for getting it done.  It's super embarrassing for it to be a students' turn when they are not prepared.  

Just a note, I always start each week with my highest reading group at the genre activities.  That way, the rest of the students have the best examples to follow for doing the activities the rest of the week.  I've found my lower students do a much better job with this example set for them.  

Want to win a full set of the new Literature Response Activities pack?  Enter below for your chance to win.  Remember, the set is at a special price for a limited time.  If you purchase the set and are selected as a winner, I'll let you choose anything in my store for the same value for me to send you in place of the Literature Response pack. 

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Thursday, June 26, 2014

Reading in the Wild Summer Book Study Chapter 1

I'm also linking up with the Reading in the Wild by Donalyn Miller book study today.  Since this is the first time I'm linking up, I'm going to share my thoughts and reflections on all of chapter 1.  To see the schedule and read the posts from last week on the first half of chapter 1, see the book study landing and information page here.  It's hosted by Catherine at

Reading in the Wild is the perfect companion read to Notice and Note.  Notice and Note is all about helping students understand and comprehend the text and Reading in the Wild is about building students as readers; a perfect pairing.  I really appreciate all of the experience that Donalyn shares.  It's all about how it's worked for her in her classroom and she's not shy to admit that it might work differently for other teachers.  She shares examples of the forms she uses and blank ones, however she encourages teachers to adjust the forms to fit their style and needs.  This first chapter concentrates on noticing student reading habits and supporting students in developing better ones when needed.  I'm thinking that a reading inventory might be good for my students to do around late October and again maybe in February.  It would be great to compare the differences over time.  Donalyn suggests perhaps doing this in the spring, but I fear that's too late for students to recognize some patterns about themselves as readers.  In October, we're established enough in routines and expectations that I think it might be a good time to inventory, reflect and make some goals. 

I loved the idea of the reading time observation.  Making it more concrete by recording observations is just what I needed to hear.  I feel like I do a lot of anecdotal observing and assessing, but it would be so much more helpful to me to record it.  I've gotten away from that and this was a good reminder to me, not only for those I suspect of being fake readers, but in all aspects of my classroom and teaching. 

I also had an aha when Donalyn shared how she worked with "Nathan" after observing him.  Not only did she talk with him about specific ways to change and improve, they wrote the goals down.  Again, writing it down is key.  She says, "With students who struggle to complete books or set attainable reading goals, writing page goals into their planners or reader's notebook holds them accountable and helps them see that they will finish a book if they read a little bit each day."

She also validated my plans to have students respond and write about their reading using edmodo.  She mentioned doing exactly what I was planning to do, which really helped me know that I was going in the right direction.  

The final section of chapter 1 is about scheduling.  She shares her schedule and some additional options.  Again, she really iterates that you have to create a schedule that works for you.  Here's the schedule I had last year, including my language arts time.  I'll post about my schedule for next year when I have that figured out.  It all depends on when my principal schedules specialists and intervention times for us. 

Schedule in my classroom: 

9:00-10:10 Guided Reading and Literature Activities
10:15-11:25 Math
11:30 Specialists (Rotated among P.E., visual art, library, math extra, drama/music)
12:00 lunch
12:40 Shared reading (lesson from our basal text, Journey's)
1:10 Read Aloud
1:20 Writing
2:00 Recess
2:15 Science / Social Studies
3:15 Dismiss

What is your basic daily schedule?

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Notice and Note Book Study Post 8

Section 6 is so helpful in teaching how to explain the signposts to your class.  It also gives some text suggestions and some models for teaching the signposts to your students.  I'm so excited about all I'm learning this summer and planning for next year.  I'm ready to dig into planning for the beginning of the year and my reader's response journals.  My plan is to start the year off with a lesson each day to introduce each of the signposts using short texts.  Then, I'll continue to support students as we read our class novel together.  Students will then have more of their own opportunity to find examples of signposts in their literature circle texts.  My biggest hurdle is going to be training myself to use that generalizable language.

One conundrum that I have is in regards to the anchor charts.  I'm debating between making the chart before hand and making it during the lesson with the students.  I've held the position that students take more ownership and use if you build the chart together, but my students didn't use it much.  So, I wonder if it really matters.  What are your thoughts on the matter?

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Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Small Group Reading: Activities and Structure

Here's post 2 in my mini-series on the activities during small group reading time.  My last post briefly described how I get my students started and slowly introduce one activity at a time.  This one is focused on introducing each activity and my structure.  Each of the activities will get their own post with details on what I do for each in the upcoming posts.  

I have five "must-do" activities that students rotate through.  They do one each day.  Here are the five.  Those of you familiar with Daily 5 might see some similarities here, but there are many differences as well. 

1- Guided Reading: This groups job is to meet with me first thing.  I do a traditional guided reading lesson with this group. 

2 - Deeper Reading: This group meets with me second.  This is where I concentrate on what many are calling "close reading."  

3 - Fluency: I am a strong believer in the correlation of fluency and comprehension.  Students who can read fluently spend less time decoding and can therefore spend more time comprehending.  

4 - Listening: Like fluency, I feel strongly that listening to a book read aloud is so helpful to students; it builds fluency and comprehension.  I think it's just as important in the upper grades as in the lower grades.  

5 - Genre Activities: This is where I'm able to get students reading and responding in various ways.  It's also where I put in some reading tasks cards and activities.  

Be sure to keep following this series for my in-depth posts on each of these activities. 

The Structure

I have 5 reading groups.  With my large class size, 33 last year, I may have up to 8 students in a reading group.  I like to keep my lower groups as small as possible, so the larger ones are always my higher level groups. Last year, I was able to have no more than 7 in a group.  Sometimes, I have a super low student that needs his/her own group.  I meet with this student for a few minutes each day between groups and assign him/her activities custom fit for his/her needs.  

Sorry for the terrible picture.  I snapped it fast as I was cleaning up my room at the end of the year. 

I print the names of the students in each group on a half-size sheet of paper and mount to a card stock with a magnet on the back.  I post labels for the 5 rotations on the board.  I hang the group card under the activity they are assigned for that day.  That's the activity they start with, except for the deeper reading group.  The deeper reading group might start by reading the passage we'll be looking at together or they might just start on their literature circle response. Guided reading starts at my table, and all the other groups go right to their "jobs".  They must complete their assigned task first, before anything else.  
A closer look.

Each morning, I just rotate the groups in a clockwise fashion.  Directly under the space for the group card, I write in directions for students.  I direct the pages for the listening group, give the story and page numbers for the fluency group, and any directions to the deeper reading group. For the genre group, I post a vertical strip of numbers.  Students do the corresponding numbered genre activity.  I change the number strip at the beginning of each new rotation. 

When students finish the activity they "must-do" for the day, they work on literature circle assignments or read a choice book.  I'm considering adding some reading task card options as well if their literature circle assignments get done. 

How do you organize and structure students during your small group reading time?

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Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Notice and Note Book Study Post 7

The sections of the book for part 7 today are pretty short and to the point.  The first section introduces the questions that accompany the signposts.  As I read, I wondered how having just one question would work when there are so many different circumstances in which a signpost might be observed.  After watching the accompanying video to this section by the authors, which can be found here, I was happy to hear that the authors struggled with the same idea.  They realized however, that after starting with the anchor question, other questions to further understanding naturally occurred in discussion.

The next topic is a difficult one for me.  I find myself often in the position of telling to be able to move on rather than taking the time to teach students to "fish" for themselves.  I love that the signposts help us generalize examples for students so that they are better able to comprehend on their own.  This is certainly a new habit I'm going to have to build myself, and a bit scary to tell you the truth.  I just have to remind myself that the students don't know how it's "supposed" to be, so if I make a mistake in my mind, they don't know it and I can just keep improving and working toward making it better.

Now I'm not one to re-invent something that has already been done and is terrific.  There are many fantastic free resources in the way of bookmarks and posters for you and your students to use to support you in teaching the signposts and anchor questions.  Here are some of my favorites. 

Teaching with a Touch of Twang did a great bookmark and response sheet in her last post on our book study here. 

Now's she's updated this same response sheet to include the anchor questions.  Get the updated sheet here. 

From Tori Gorosave on TpT:

Do a search for Notice and Note on TpT and you'll find several formats of posters, book marks and response forms to suit your style and needs. 

How do you teach your students to "fish" and wean them to find their own points of comprehension? 

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Friday, June 20, 2014

Small Group Reading: Starting out the Year

I alluded in previous posts to an explanation and mini-series of posts on how I organize and execute the small group reading time in my classroom.  This will be the first post of a few to explain what I do to and how I organize my time and students to allow me to meet with every small group every day.  That's right I said every group, every day.  Each in a meaningful way that supports enhancement and extension of reading skills, comprehension, and knowledge.

Today's focus is all about the first few weeks of school, before we actually get going with small group instruction.  I spend the first 3-4 weeks of school training my students for small group activities and response in their reading notebooks.  Our school district is a big advocate of small group reading instruction, guided reading, and so the majority of students I get each year have had some type of small group reading instruction.  That means they should be familiar with the basic logisitcs of it and general expectations and rules.  That doesn't mean they know my specific logistics and expectations, but it gives me a great base to start from.  So, instead of 6-8 weeks of training, I'm able to do it in about 3-4.

I've combined methods from many sources to come up with what I do.  That's why I love PD books so much.  One of the biggest aha's was from reading The Daily Five by Bail Boushey and Joan Moser.  The newest edition was recently released, and I understand that it is much better than the first edition.  My summer reading list is already huge, so I haven't picked that one up yet, but I recommend it, especially if you haven't read it at all yet.  They explicitly explain how to gradually teach and release your students to work independently during workshop or small group time.

I slowly introduce one activity at a time.  In my class, I call them "independent literature activities".  I didn't want to call them centers just because I wanted my 5th graders to feel a little more grown up about it.  I felt like including independent in the title explained exactly what I expected during this time.  I'll explain each of the activities in detail in later posts.

Then, I start out my class with a whole class novel.  I'm currently reading the book Notice and Note by Kylene Beers and Robert Probst and am excited to teach my students the sign posts.  You can follow our blog book study or go back and read through the posts that were done for the study.  All the information for the Notice and Note book study can be found here.

We read the novel as a class, I read aloud as students follow.  Each student has a copy of the book in front of him/her.  This fall, we'll be reading Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli.  I was able to purchase 25 copies from at $2.50 a piece.  All the books were in very good used condition, including a surprise library bound hardback book which I made my teacher copy.  Since I purchased them all from the same seller, I received a $0.50 discount per book and all books ship for free.  If you order at least 20 of the same title with the same ISBN number, use the code APPLE to receive 15% off your order.  Sale items and bundles are excluded.  If you haven't looked at before, you'll want to check them out.  Click on the banner below or, if you want Maniac Magee, click on that cover to go directly to that title.  
(These are affiliate links, I'd sure appreciate you using them if I've introduced you to this site.  I receive a nominal portion of your purchase.)

I still need about 10 more book copies to make a class set, but my teammate has a small group set that I'll borrow this year to make a full class set as I slowly gather a few more copies either from or my local thrift shops.  As we read together, I do a lot of modeling.  I model think alouds, comprehension strategies and how I record in my reader's notebook.  I'll share all of that with you down the road as I work up my plans for Maniac Magee.

Maniac Magee
Jerry Spinelli

After 3-4 weeks, I've introduced all the independent literature activities and we've finished the class novel. We're now ready to start small group instruction and literature circles.

Look for the second post in this series next week which will give an overview of the activities and an in-depth look at the structure of my small group reading time. To a list of all the planned posts and publishing dates, visit the series main information page here.  

How do you start your year to get ready for small group reading? I'd love to read your ideas in the comments or feel free to link up your blog post about building the beginning foundation for small group reading to the linky below.  Please grab the button at the top of this post and link it back to this post when you link up. 

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Sunday, June 15, 2014

Teach Like a Pirate: Ask and Analyze

Welcome to Teach Like a Pirate.  A book study on the book by Dave Burgess.  This section, Ask and Analyze Questions, is all about how to use questioning to steer yourself as you plan and to engage students as you teach.  

Each week as we're studying this book, there's a twitter chat on the chapters that are the focus of the week. Last Monday, we chatted about this section.  You can join us with the #tlap2014sbs tag on Monday, Wednesday and Friday of each week.  Usually around 9:00 Central Time, but check twitter for exact time as each host chooses the time that works for their schedule.  During our chat on this section, these are the questions I asked:
  • What was your reaction to those six words: "It's easy for you, you're creative."
  • What questions do you ask yourself as you sit down to plan to help you include creativity?
  • Where/how do you record your ideas? You know the ones that come to you in the shower and dissppear when you're drying off.
  • How do you reflect on and improve your lessons/teaching?
  • How do you incorporate your interests/hobbies into your teaching?
The second question is the most difficult for me.  I'm going to start asking questions like: 
  • How can I incorporate any of the "the arts" into this lesson? 
  • How can I incorporate technology that will enhance the lesson and engage students? 
  • What is the best place for this lesson? 
  • What question or problem can I pose to students that will get them conversing on topic to come to an answer or solution?
These questions will help me find more creative ways to excite and engage my students in the lessons I plan.  

In addition to asking these questions as I plan to incorporate Genius Hour in my classroom this year.  This is a way to allow students to explore and learn about their own passions.  What better way to engage and excite student than to let them choose a topic to learn more about or an area in which they want to improve.  You can get some information about how to implement this in your own classroom here. 

There's so much I want to do this next year, I'm working on letting some things go so that better things can be let in.  Head on over to

to get her thoughts on the Transformation section.

Share your thoughts.  I'd love to hear your reactions and thoughts in the comments of this post or link up with us.  Please consider joining us on twitter as well. #tlap2014sbs.

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